Bear Valley circuit 22.6km

Bear Valley’s trails are located within the Point Reyes National Seashore area, up the coast from Marin Headlands north of San Francisco. Nowhere near as crowded as further south, and close to where we stayed in San Anselmo, which is why The One and Only Son and I chose it for today’s hike.

Our guidebook listed the hike as “strenuous” which we both believed was an exaggeration. “Medium” with large “easy” sections may be more accurate. That book also suggested 12 miles (19.3km) distance, but my GPS told me 22.6km (14 miles). Our short detour onto Kelham Beach would not make up that difference.

The map…

A simple hiking map from that book did the job just fine…

Our hiking map

After parking the car at Point Reyes Visitor Centre, the trailhead was within view.

Bear Valley trailhead

A pre-hiking snap before we start. Let’s get cracking… We were keen…

The boys are ready

I’ve been on the road for 3 1/2 weeks and today was the first “proper” hike in that time  I sure missed it…

Bear Valley trail

A wet streak across the trail revealed the efforts of this slimy guy. They grow them big over here…

Sammy the Slug

The guidebook suggested that many walkers stop at Divide Meadow and then return. Some 3km in, we had a quick snack there.

Divide Meadow

The Old Pine Trail shoots off from Divide Meadow up the hill. That’s our guy.

Off on Old Pine Trail on right

The gently ascending Old Pine Trail was all to ourselves. Not another single soul here. The trees grew mightier and…

Gentle climbing on Old Pine Trail

…the fog rolled in.

Green and lush and… fog

Old Pine Trail was the most beautiful part of today’s hike…

Up among the trees

…mystical and sometimes almost spooky. Bear Valley… any bears up here? What about moose or elk? Plenty of fog to make you uneasy though.

More fog

Nothing… We heard only distant birds and then arrived at the Sky Trail junction.

One Pine / Sky Trails junction

We followed the Sky Trail for only 500 meters before turning west of Woodward Valley Trail. Now the track started descending. Presumably towards the Pacific Ocean given the fog intensified.

Woodward Valley Trail

This box caught my eye. Mmm… that means wildlife roams this area. However, we saw nothing today apart from birds. Nightlife only perhaps…

Wildlife camera

Varied vegetation and conditions indeed. A canopy of bushes leading onto…

Light at the end of the tunnel?

…this. Temperature dropped and…

That (in)famous fog

…the wind from the Pacific picked up.

A little breezy…

The Pacific Ocean was now in (un) clear view. Behind this guy…

Hold on to your hat…

These conditions are fantastic. In my view. You feel small and vulnerable but there is something very attractive in just being there.

The fog, wind and cold has returned

Woodward Valley Trail gradually descended over rocky terrain and what we presumed was the Coast Trail became visible (it was).

Without being nowhere near strenuous, this section of today’s hike was the most difficult. Loose rocks in places, muddy due to fog and sea mist in others. Great views through the fog.

Looking north along the Pacific coast

We soon arrived at the Coast Trail junction. Other hikers appeared as that trail follows the coast for some time.

Woodward Alley / Coast Trails junction

The wide for vehicles Coast Trail may have had a defence past? You could visualise army vehicles patrolling here up and down the coast.

Coast Trail walking south

Plenty of turkey vultures circled above. There are two, barely visible, in this photo up the hill. Just looked great against the fog.

Turkey vultures on that hill

Moving on the Coast Trail and you feel you could have been in Australia at times. Like here below.

Continuing south on Coast Trail

A rubbish dump distracted from all that green. Likely to have been fished out of the sea at the nearby beach.

Clean up America

Why not pay Kelham Beach a visit? It’s just there.

Kelham Beach “trailhead”

Kelham Beach looked deserted but there was one other family there.

Kelham Beach

Concrete steps provided access to the beach. I haven’t seen beach access steps like these in Australia. Somehow these seem more suitable and hardy for exposed coastal areas. Something to replicate at home?

Concrete steps instead of wood

The hills above looked majestic from the beach. We loitered there for a while and enjoyed the tranquility from waves and bird noises.

On Kelham Beach

Hans The Beach Explorer?

Hiker on the beach

Soon enough, the Coast Trail turned away from the coast, to cross the creek inland. The other end of the Bear Valley Trail shot off and we exited the Coast Trail there.

Coast Trail moving inland

Green and lush again. We passed the Divide Meadow and the Old Pine trailhead and completed a loop. The last gently descending 3km back to Bear Valley trailhead provided opportunity for stretching.

Bear Valley Trail return

In summary, a fantastic and varied hike, reasonable distance, but far easier to hike than the book depicted. Maybe we grow them tougher in Australia 😉

Finally, some peculiar trail names here. Until you realise that the San Andreas fault line is right outside the park and that you just have driven across it… mmmm…

Interesting trail name
Hiking between fault line and ocean

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